ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Six female inmates say they were maced for no reason at the Metropolitan Detention Center. They say they were trying to help a woman deal with a seizure, and now they’re suing.
“It was a terrifying experience for all the women who were maced, but especially so for Cynthia,” said Shannon Kennedy.
Shannon Kennedy is Cynthia Ramona Chavez’s attorney and she says Chavez has epilepsy.
The security video from inside MDC shows Chavez in the middle of a seizure, and a fellow inmate coming to her aid.
“They were also well aware that Kimberly was acting as her nurse, and Kimberly would often learn as she started to seize, would calm her,” said Kennedy.
As more women crowd around Chavez to help, jail officers are seen making their way outside and immediately macing all the women in the group.
“Instead of doing what needed to be done so these women could go back into the community, instead they were punished for providing medical care that the jail was failing to provide, and punished by being maced,” said Kennedy.
Now, Chavez and five other women in the video are suing the county. They say the jail officers didn’t even give them any warning they would be maced.
“Some jail guards were joking saying things like, ‘If that’s a seizure, then I’m Elvis,'” said Kennedy.
Soon after being maced, Chavez is seen laying on the ground as jail officers slowly come to help, but Kennedy says the mace gave her client a second seizure.
With this lawsuit, Kennedy says the women want to send MDC a message.
“We’re working, we’re trying to become better. We want a second chance. In jail, women should not be further abused,” she said.
A spokesperson with MDC says they can not comment on the pending lawsuit.
News 13 has learned the county pays almost $4 million a year in insurance to cover lawsuits like these.
Here are a couple examples of why those premiums are so high:
Back in December, the county settled three excessive force lawsuits at the jail for more than a million dollars.
In 2016, the county settled for more than $2 million for a guard accused of sexually assaulting three female inmates.